‘Landmark’ Scots Law Ruling on ‘Secondary Exposure’ to Asbestos: Gibson v Babcock International Ltd [2018] CSOH 78

Last week, the Daily Mail reported on a Scottish jurisdiction claim, brought by the estate of a deceased asbestos victim: Gibson v Babcock International Ltd [2018] CSOH 78.[i] This is the first Scottish claim to rule on ‘secondary exposure’ to asbestos, or more specifically ‘exposure to someone in the home of an employee, alleged to have caused mesothelioma in a secondary victim’.

The deceased’s husband handled asbestos in the course of his employment constructing boilers. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the deceased washed her husband’s ‘dust covered’ overalls and was exposed to asbestos fibres. After a long latency period, she developed mesothelioma and later died, in 2015.

Gibson appeared, on the facts, to be almost analogous to the case of Maguire v Harland and Wolff plc [2005] EWCA Civ 01, heard in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

At a Court of Session hearing, on 25 July 2018, Lady Carmichael ruled that the deceased’s exposure ‘materially increased’ her risk of developing mesothelioma. She further reasoned, at paragraph 167:

‘If the increase in risk were even a small fraction of that described by Mr Howie [counsel for the claimant] (who gave a figure of at least forty-fold in each year), I would regard it as material. If the deceased shook out and washed clothes visibly contaminated with dust, at least once [per] week, over a period of years, and that dust contained asbestos fibres, then it seems to me that, on the balance of probabilities, her risk of developing mesothelioma would be materially increased’.

As such, Lady Carmichael awarded £247,000 in damages.

Full text judgment of the Court of Session can be accessed here.

 

[i] Annie Butterworth and Jonathan Brocklebank, ‘Killed by a HUG: Family win £250,000 payout after judge rules their mother died from exposure to asbestos while washing husband's overalls and giving him a cuddle after work’ (26 July 2018 Daily Mail) <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5994115/Mother-died-exposure-asbestos-washing-husbands-overalls-giving-cuddles.html> accessed 31 July 2018.